January 21, 2022

Once Down to his Last Shekel, Nir Emuna is a Biomechanics Postdoctoral Candidate

From L to R: Martin and Grace Rosman, Nir Emuna with his son Yachin on his shoulders, Liad Emuna, and Irv Elenberg, ATS – Washington, D.C. Senior Director of Development

Rosman Atidim Program Levels the Playing Field for Disadvantaged Israelis

By day, he was a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces. At night, Nir Emuna, B.S. ’11, M.S. ’13, Ph.D. ’19, moonlighted as a short order cook at Burger King to make ends meet. “Flipping burgers and sweating up until midnight makes you think about your future,” he said. “I felt I was not reaching my potential. I knew I could do more, and I wanted to do more.”

He considered careers in psychology, photography, and even speech therapy. But his mother reminded him of his love for Legos as a boy and encouraged him to pursue engineering, even though money was tight. “When I understood I wanted to go into engineering, I looked only at the Technion,” he said. “I didn’t apply to any other university.”

Emuna went on to receive his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at the Technion, thanks to the generous support of the Rosman Atidim Program. Now 35, he is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Technion and headed to Yale for additional postdoctoral research in vascular mechanics.

American Technion Society (ATS) donors Dr. Martin and Grace Rosman, of Annapolis, Md. and Sarasota, Fla., started the Rosman Atidim Program in 2007 in collaboration with the government-sponsored national Atidim. Aiming to bridge the socio-economic gap between Israel’s wealthier and poorer communities, the program provides students from underserved neighborhoods with a Technion education and job placement in Israel’s high-tech industry. These students, for whom higher education is not a given, are offered scholarships and assistance in every aspect of university life, from the Technion Pre-University Center preparatory program on through graduation.

The program is particularly important in today’s COVID-19 pandemic in light of the lack of part-time jobs for students. As of December 31, 2019, nearly 250 Rosman Atidim students were enrolled at the Technion. In all, some 659 students and alumni have participated in the program since its inception.

“I couldn’t have gone to the Technion, graduated, and had the career I have without the Rosmans’ generous help,” said Emuna. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Grace and Marty.”

Emuna and his two brothers grew up in Hadera, a working-class city with a high population of immigrants, located nearly 30 miles from the major cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. Neither of his parents attended college. While they encouraged their children to get an education, they could not afford sending them to a university.

Finishing his military service, Emuna worked blue-collar jobs for a year to save enough money for tuition at the Technion. But after helping his family with their financial difficulties, he could just cover the first year. Only after starting school did he learn about the Rosman Atidim program. “During my first day in the dorm, my roommate told me about the Atidim program,” he said. “I knew I had money for the first year, but I didn’t know what I would do for the next. So, I applied.”

His first semester went by with no word from Atidim, and he found the academics challenging. By the second term he made Dean’s List — a great lift for Emuna, who had doubted his academic capabilities. “I started to believe in myself,” he said. But as his grades rose, his finances sank. “I remember the screen at the bank showing I had only 10 shekels left in my account. I was literally crying. I thought I won’t be able to continue at the Technion for lack of money.”

A week later he was accepted into the Rosman Atidim Program. “It changed my life,” he said. The program paid for his tuition, dormitory housing, tutoring, travel back home on the weekends, and a laptop computer. “Until then, I didn’t have a personal computer. I was doing my work at the library,” he said. Atidim also secured him a paid internship at Israel Aerospace Industries. “As I met with engineers, I started thinking not as a student but like an engineer. It greatly influenced me.”

Emuna earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in spring 2011 and started graduate school at the Technion that fall. At that time, he discovered his passion for teaching while serving as a teaching assistant. His personal life changed too. He met his future wife, Liad, who was studying math education at the Technion. The couple has two children and one due in early fall 2020.

During his doctoral program, he worked from 2018 to 2019 at the defense technology company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. He also shifted his research focus from aerospace to biomechanics. “I wanted to employ my engineering skills to biological and medical problems,” he said. After a one-year postdoctoral program at the Technion, he intends to do additional postdoctoral research in biomechanics with Professor Jay Humphrey at Yale’s School of Engineering & Applied Science.

“I was the kid who didn’t fit in math class,” said Emuna, noting his shared experience with those who have been discouraged from studying STEM. Like the Rosmans, he wants to inspire young Israelis to pursue science and engineering. “I want to become a bridge to these young kids,” he said.

Looking to the future, Emuna desires more than anything to return to the Technion as a faculty member. “I grew up at the Technion, academically,” he said. “I know the talent there. I know the human material there. I want to influence the next generation of engineers there.”


About the Rosmans

Dr. Martin (Marty) and Grace Rosman are Technion Guardians, a designation reserved for those who support the Technion at the highest levels. In addition to founding the Rosman-Atidim Program, they have supported undergraduate dormitories, student scholarships, and funds for reservists who have lost academic time while serving the Israel Defense Forces. The Rosmans are members of the Technion Board of Governors and the Board of Regents, lifetime members of the ATS – Washington, D.C. Leadership Council, and received Technion Honorary Fellowships in 2018 for all they do for the university.

Dr. Rosman is director of breast cancer research at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. Mrs. Rosman conducted biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), before becoming a secondary school science teacher.

For more information on how you can support the Rosman Atidim Program, email info@ats.org.